Print vs. Cursive

Back on September 5, 2020, I switched my handwriting in my journal from printing to cursive. There was no real reason to do it. I think maybe I had been browsing John Quincy Adams’ diaries and was impressed by his handwriting and wanted to see if I remembered how to write in cursive. I continued to write in cursive in my journal for the next 280 days.

A few days ago, I switched back to printing. This time, it was also mostly on a whim, but there was a little more thought behind the change. I’ve often thought my journals might be interesting for my kids when I am old or have passed on. They might enjoy reading about stuff we did when they were younger, thought I had on things, maybe get to know me a little better through this daily writing. But when I look at my cursive handwriting, it is much more difficult to read than my print writing. I began wondering if I was creating an unnecessary barrier.

A sample showing my transition of cursive back to print writing.
My transition from cursive back to printing.

I learned to write in cursive beginning in 2nd grade. My older kids have also learned to write in cursive. But I gave it up as quickly as I could manage. I think it was in 7th grade when I started printing again, and I only ever printed from that point until I decided to experiment in my journal with cursive handwriting 280 days ago.

My printing is much neater than my cursive handwriting. If I slow myself down, I can make my cursive writing neater, but it never comes close to looking elegant, and really, I don’t want to slow down. I write quickly and I want to get it out quickly. One of the benefits of cursive writing was that it allowed me to write faster than printing–but at a cost of readability. And since the journals are there for reference, readability is of higher overall importance than speed.

I tend to use a lot of shorthand in my journals. I rarely spell out names of my immediate family, resorting instead to first letters. I have dozens of shorthand codes for words and phrases I use commonly. These come across much more clearly and cleanly when I print than when I write in cursive. Cursive doesn’t lend itself to my kind of shorthand. I gain back some of the speed that I lose when printing thanks to my homegrown shorthand.

I enjoy the flowing feeling of writing in cursive more than the choppy feel I get from printing. This is especially true when writing with my fountain pen. But once again, practicality wins out. I need to be able to read what I am writing, and when I start to pick up speed in cursive, my writing becomes difficult to parse. So for now, I have switched back to printing.

It is interesting to flip through the dozen or so volumes that make up my journals and see how my writing changes over time. Cursive at one point, printing at another, but more than that, the style of printing. Sometimes I print larger letters, other times, I go for weeks with microscopic print.

I know there is an ongoing debate: print vs. cursive. But for purely practical purposes, I land squarely on the side of print–even though I adore the feeling of writing in cursive.

2 comments

  1. My cursive is completely unreadable. Print is okay, but I need to spend some time improving it – more for my own satisfaction than anything else.

    I’d love to hear about your homegrown shorthand.

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